The Scout Oath reads as follows: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
Windermere resident Jake Carsten, 17, is demonstrating the perfect example of going above and beyond to honor this code with the recent completion of his Eagle Scout project: a flag retirement box.
Jake, a member of Boy Scout Troop 225, currently holds a Life Scout rank, the rank below the final rank of Eagle.
According to Northern Star Scouting, only about 6% of all Scouts BSA members earn Eagle.
“Receiving the rank of Eagle Scout would be the culmination of something that’s been in my life for the past 10 years or so,” Jake said. “I’ve gone through different sports, activities and experiences the past 10 years, but the one constant has always been Monday night Boy Scout meetings at Camp Ithiel in Gotha. Reaching Eagle would mean making it to the top of the hill that I’ve been climbing for the past few years. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever worked on in my life.”
TRUSTWORTHY, LOYAL, BRAVE, KIND
Jake was born and raised in Windermere, and he attended local schools, including Windermere Elementary, Gotha Middle and now Olympia High, where he is a senior.
Jake remembers the first time he learned about being a scout.
“I was in about fourth grade when we had a scout leader come into our school and give us a presentation,” he said. “I started with Cub Scouts and then moved on to Boy Scouts through the Arrow of Light Crossover ceremony when I graduated from fifth grade.”
The biggest lesson Jake has learned from Boy Scouts is persistence, which has been a skill he had to implement throughout the process of completing his project and working to obtain the title of Eagle Scout before he turns 18 in March.
“In scouting in particular, there is a lot of bureaucracy — not in a negative way — in whatever you’re trying to do,” he said. “There’s always a form to fill out. There’s always someone you need to go and see or a signature you need to obtain, and it’s a lot of steps. You will inevitably get held back in some way or another, and the immediate response that I try to focus on is to keep with it.”
The project is part of the many steps Jake needs to complete to become an Eagle Scout.
Eagle Scout rank requirements include being active in your troop for at least six months as a Life Scout; demonstrating Scout Spirit by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law as a Life Scout; earning a total of 21 merit badges with specific badge requirements; participating in a Scoutmaster conference; and planning, developing and giving leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school or the community.
Jake said the project was easily the biggest hurdle to overcome in the process.
With the project complete, Jake will next submit his Eagle Scout application and attend a board of review, where three adult scouting members will interview him and determine his eligibility for the ranking.
His journey will be completed when he then holds an Eagle Court of Honor where he would be promoted.
Jake noticed the flag retirement box outside the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Winter Garden.
He tried to search for other boxes nearby in Windermere, but the nearest locations to respectfully retire a flag would be his scout meeting place, Camp Ithiel, or a local town office or fire department, which would take up resources for delivery to the camp.
There are only a few specific agencies authorized by the government to respectfully retire flags.
“Our flag is a symbol of our nation as a whole,” Jake said. “It deserves the highest respect and honor.”
Jake then met with Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien, and the mayor suggested he present the project to the Town Council for review.
Jake received approval to move forward with his project at the council meeting in July.
He then began the long and tedious process of fundraising, gathering materials, finding volunteers and planning work days.
“I was very lucky to receive a ton of local support from Windermere residents coming out to car washes, discounts from people who I bought the materials from when I explained the purpose of my project and from the Allen Family Foundation who generously gave me a $200 grant,” Jake said.
The Bob Allen Family Foundation, led by Rick and CT Allen, distributes about $75,000 annually in grant monies to local grassroots organizations. Typically, grants range from $3,000 to $120,000.
Rick Allen said Jake’s idea was the perfect project for the foundation to support.
“His mom told us how he was doing the project all on his own and asked if he could come and practice presenting to us,” Rick Allen said. “We were so impressed. He had a perfect presentation. We were going to try and give him a bit of a hard time and ask a lot of questions, but he had answers for everything. There wasn’t anything to nitpick. It hits everything we are trying to do with the foundation, and we’re so proud to be able to help him.”
Although Jake originally was going to build the box with synthetic wood, his father, Keith Carsten, came across an old USPS box for $400 on eBay in St. Augustine.
Jake sent the seller a message introducing himself and the project, and the box was offered to him at $350.
The family picked up the box and brought it back to Windermere the next day.
Jake spray-painted the box white, and he sourced decals from a local design firm to label the box so residents understand its purpose. He had a friend’s mother come out to paint a shiplap pattern on the box to match the surrounding building and blend it in with the community.
The project recognizes the generosity of the Allen Family Foundation in writing with a label on the box. The box also has a QR code for people to scan to learn more about the project.
Jake and his father poured concrete themselves and sculpted it with volunteers for the initial anchoring of the box. Landscaping was completed around the concrete piece and filled with gravel.
However, the anchoring turned out to be the biggest complication in the project.
Although he had originally drilled holes to attach the box with concrete anchors — which provided an easy way to move the box if needed — the problem arose when the anchors were not taking hold. Instead, Jake decided to utilize a bolt that goes into the ground and uses the concrete as a fulcrum.
This solution took about two weeks, but the box was officially completed at the beginning of December. The box is located next to the Cal Palmer building off Main Street in downtown Windermere.
“The hard work was definitely worth it, and I’m very happy with how the project turned out,” Jake said.
Jake originally estimated around $900 for materials for the box, but the project was completed with about $750.
The remainder of the money will be donated to the town of Windermere, with Jake suggesting the funds be used for maintenance and upkeep of the box.
O’Brien said the town of Windermere is grateful to Jake for his work creating a project with a lasting impact.
“The flag retirement box is a convenient and respectful way for residents to properly dispose of American flags that have reached the end of their lifespan,” he said. “It was a pleasure to work with Jake, his family and fellow Boy Scouts on his Eagle project. I have had the pleasure to watch him grow and become a fine young man with a bright future. I am appreciative of town staff, the Town Council, the Bob Allen Family Foundation and all those who have contributed support to this project.”
THE FINAL DESTINATION
After Jake finishes a shift working at Pizza 14 across the street from the box, he walks over and collects the flags before placing them in individual bags for storage and taking them to a trailer where they are stored for retirement.
Jake said the box often is filled to the brim, and already he has gathered about 200 flags.
The United States Flag Code states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
“For a flag-retirement ceremony, we typically will invite a local Cub Scout troop out and the Boy Scouts will teach them how to disassemble a flag respectfully, which entails cutting the union out — the blue and white stars — and then severing each of the 13 stripes individually,” Jake said. “The flags are burned with the help of the Cub Scouts, and then the fire is searched for any remaining eyelets left and they are given to the Cub Scouts as souvenirs.”
Flag-burning ceremonies are sporadic because of the large number of people it takes to put the event together, but Jake plans to upload the dates for the ceremonies on the QR code website so locals can attend.
Jake takes pride in seeing the box come to fruition.
“More than that, I’m just happy I can do something to help the town of Windermere,” he said. “It’s been such a great experience growing up here. I have friends who don’t live here who visit and have referred to this as me growing up in a ‘summer camp’ because of the lakes, the ice cream shop, the dirt roads to bike up and down, the parks to camp in. It’s really been an amazing opportunity to mature here. Really, I always knew I wanted the project to give back to the town in some way. So, I’m just glad I could do my part.”
Jake hopes the box has a future of longevity.
When he moves on to college next year, the box will be run by his family or a local scout in his troop.
Jake has received a few college acceptances already, but hopes to attend the University of Florida. No matter where he ends up, he plans to major in international relations and attend the university’s Air Force ROTC.
He currently is in conversations with the entirety of Florida’s Air Force ROTC regarding a scholarship. His dream is to fly jets after he graduates.
Keith Carsten said watching his son work on and complete the project has been an incredible experience.
“His sense of community growing up; it’s been rewarding to see him appreciate the benefits of growing up in a great town with great neighbors,” he said. “With all a teenager has going on now, it’s inspiring to see him give back to the community that he lives in. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and we are so proud of him as his parents for this experience. Most of the credit goes to him. We try to lead by example, but all of his successes have been due to his persistence and hard work. It’s nice to see the town appreciate his efforts, and it’s going to be a good day when he achieves that Eagle rank.”
News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.